updated 5/26/2004 10:18:28 AM ET 2004-05-26T14:18:28

Guests: Louis Licari, Richard Leiby, Pat Buchanan, Carl Bernstein

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The president‘s five points, day two: The reaction in Iraq; the reaction in Washington; the big picture from Carl Bernstein. 

A familiar picture in D.C.: A sex scandal.  This is where I came in. 

The latest from below the beltway. 

Having a bad hair day?  Don‘t blame your shampoo, blame your DNA. 

And the dumb car chase of the week.  When you get out of your car and you try to carjack somebody else‘s car, and that somebody else kicks your butt, you know you are in big trouble. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m honored to...

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  At the White House this morning, the president hoped to remind the country why the U.S. is fighting in Iraq.  He met with victims of Saddam Hussein‘s torture, men whose right hands were cut off at the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison. 

BUSH:  They are examples of the brutality of the tyrant. 

GREGORY:  But as the president tried to rally support among the allies for his handover plan, French president Chirac told Mr. Bush, during a phone call, that Iraqis must really be in charge.  The government can‘t be a front for the U.S.

BUSH:  And that‘s what we want.  We want there to be a complete and real transfer of sovereignty so that the Iraqi citizens realize the fate of their country is now their responsibility. 

GREGORY:  British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today, the authority of Iraq‘s interim government would even allow it to VETO U.S. military actions. 

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  So, if there‘s a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Fallujah in a particular way, that has to be one with the consent of the Iraqi government. 

GREGORY:  At the same time today, signs that the U.S. will once again have troubles getting other countries to send troops to Iraq.  After a meeting with Secretary of State Powell, Belgium‘s foreign minister suggested the NATO alliance is already overextended in Afghanistan. 

LOUIS MICHEL, BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER:  I think it should not be wise to engage NATO now in Iraq. 

BUSH:  We must keep our focus. 

GREGORY:  After the president‘s speech last night, democrats charge that Mr. Bush had himself to blame for the U.S. being alone in Iraq. 

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  He must get on a plane, call a summit in Europe of our NATO allies in the major powers. 

GREGORY:  :The president‘s goal last night, to stop the slide of public support for the war, which in this election year, has dragged his approval rating down to new lows.  Even fellow republicans have pressured the White House to turn things around. 

REP. ROB PORTMAN ®, OHIO:  People are seeking reassurance that there is a plan and the president laid it out very clearly last night. 

GREGORY (on camera):  The U.S. representative in Iraq hopes to have a new caretaker government named by the end of the month.  But, the big challenge is filling the top four positions with people acceptable to all the Iraqi factions.  And well-placed U.N. sources say member of the Security Council want that new government to have some say in U.S. military actions, something that could be a hard sell to the Bush administration. 

David Gregory, NBC News, the White House. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  We apologize for the audio problems at the beginning of this news hour.  To continue, at home, who is fighting alongside the president?  In a moment, the analysis of Carl Bernstein who wrote yesterday that republican leadership needed to straighten out Mr. Bush about Iraq the same way it straightened out Richard Nixon 30 years ago about Watergate.  First the reaction, 24 hours out. 

I‘m joined now by Pat Buchanan, former advisor to three presidents and now an MSNBC analyst. 

Pat, good evening.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Portman of Ohio there, just said people are seeking reassurance that there is a plan and the president laid it out have clearly.  Pat, did he do so last night? 

BUCHANAN:  I think he did, there‘s no question about it.  The president of the United States is going to try transfer power, as much as he can, to the Iraqis on June 30.  Their election is on January 31 of next year.  I think power is going to be transferred.  I think it‘s going to be real sovereignty.  But Keith, we‘re headed for real problems, and the question of whether or not this interim government can tell the Americans, you can‘t fight in Fallujah, you can‘t fight in Najaf, but I think the president has downsized his goals realistically in Iraq and I think we‘re moving out. 

OLBERMANN:  The five points, most seem to be consisting, at least, of scheduling and logistics, as you referred to, the election by next January; handover still on track, 37 days from now.  But, there was one phrase in there that seemed to be pregnant with additional meaning:  “I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them Americans.  Iraqi‘s will write their own history and find their own way.”

Does—to you, “find their own way” sound a little bit like “every man for himself?” 

BUCHANAN:  Nope, this is a dramatic change in American policy.  The

idea of the neoconservatives going in was we‘re going to remake Iraq in the

image of America, we‘re make it free and democratic, it will be a strategic

base camp of the United States in the Middle East, flanking Syria and Iran,

this is permanent and this is going to ignite a revolution across the area

·         all that is gone, now.  The president is a hard-nosed realistic.  We have limited goals we can achieve.  I think our hope is we can get out of there, put a government in place that won‘t be terrorist in character, and that will not have weapons of mass destruction and won‘t attack its neighbors and frankly, most Americans, I think, would settle for that. 

OLBERMANN:  The speech was part of a preannounced strategy of a series of speeches and the morning after, today, the British were saying, Tony Blair was saying, one thing about who would be in total control of coalition troops after the handover, specifically he said that in the event that political decisions needed to be made about where coalition troops would be used after June 30, that would ultimately be under the veto of the interim Iraqi government.  Meanwhile back here at home, Colin Powell said at almost the same time, no matter what happens, U.S. troops will still be under the control of U.S. authorities and they can do what they need to do to protect themselves.  Does that happening so close to the speech itself last night, indicate that this speech last flight and the series of them have been a very well planned out strategy by the White House? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, clearly they have not coordinated with Tony Blair who‘s got his own problems.  But quite frankly, Keith, you cannot have this interim government telling the United States when and where it can attack.  We just can‘t do that.  Because this interim government will be a weak government, it‘s going to try to win popular support and you don‘t win that by telling the Americans to go take out the people in Fallujah.  So, I think we‘re headed down for a train wreck, quite frankly.  But my guess is, the United States is going to retain the right to attack when and where it feels it has to.  But the election upcoming, almost everybody running, I think, going to be saying, “I will get the American out of Iraq.”  I think this war could be over, quite frankly, by January 31. 

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan.  As always sir, thanks for your insight. 

BUCHANAN:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  As I mentioned earlier, Carl Bernstein, best known for his reporting during Watergate published an opinion piece in “USA Today” yesterday, in which he argued there are disturbing parallels between President Nixon‘s handling of Watergate and President Bush‘s handling of Iraq.  Earlier tonight, I spoke with Mr. Bernstein about what he termed a lesson of history. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Carl Bernstein thanks for joining us.

CARL BERNSTEIN, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST:  Good to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  Your piece in yesterday, “USA Today” was printed under the headline, “History Lesson, GOP Must Stop Bush.”  Can you correlate your comparisons between the Nixon and Bush administration‘s with Mr. Bush‘s speech, last night? 

BERNSTEIN:  As I say, I don‘t think that this is about high crimes and misdemeanors.  I think this is about dishonesty and lack of competence.  And what I say in the piece is that it‘s time that the courageous example of republicans who challenged Richard Nixon and said, “Enough, already.  Enough of the lies, enough of not being willing to acknowledge mistakes,” that it‘s time for republicans, perhaps, to think of the consequences to their country and to the party by allowing George Bush to continue to take the actions that he has that have produced an unmitigated disaster and seem to be going in no other direction but disaster in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  John Dean‘s book, “Worse than Watergate,” emphasized the adherence to secrecy in the Nixon administration, and again repeating that the Bush administration now.  It seems secrecy is a two-way street.  So many of Nixon‘s advisors, as I if I need to tell you this, seem to be keeping the truth secret from him, in that case, about the reaction nationally to Watergate.  Do you think Mr. Bush‘s advisors are keeping the facts in Iraq and the reaction to them secret from him? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think—I think that the facts about Iraq are there for all to see, including the president and that those facts deserve a second look at what our policies are.  George Will, the conservative columnist, who interestingly enough, was one of the first conservatives to say to Richard Nixon, “enough,” wrote the other day about this administration.  He said “this administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and having thought, to have second thoughts.”  That we need a real reassessment of what we‘re doing, not another speech like last night which is the same old bromides about freedom and liberty and democracy, which are very nice concepts, but that‘s not what we‘re up against, here.  Instead of containing terrorism, instead of effectively fighting terrorism and its causes, this war has given terrorists a field day.  There were no terrorists to speak of in Iraq.  It was not a terrorist state, it was a Stalinist state.  You know, not for nothing did bin Laden say of Saddam Hussein, “he‘s an infidel.”  Saddam Hussein would no more permit terrorists in his country than I would in my backyard. 

OLBERMANN:  I tried to watch that speech last night as a civilian, just a guy at home off the clock, trying to disconnect from what I know because I‘m in news, and as you said, I didn‘t hear anything new in that.  What would have happened if last night George Bush had said, “we‘ve made some major mistakes in Iraq, some our fault, some circumstantial.  We need to amend the plan to fit those mistakes, we need to back building them and because I‘m the commander-in-chief, I‘m going to take responsibility of them, whether I did them myself or not.”  What would have happened if that had been the message last night? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think he could have united the country to some extent.  I think that really uniting the country under George Bush is impossible, at this time.  But certainly, he could have gone a long way toward it, but I think it is too late now.  But, the real thing is that somehow we have to enter—internationalize the exit and the last act of this tragedy.  That means calling a summit meeting, perhaps, it includes Arab leaders that the president would call, it means having some kind of multinational force, perhaps under a joint command that doesn‘t produce more terrorism.  Our presence is producing terrorism, it‘s not reducing it. 

OLBERMANN:  Last question.  Everything today, it‘s automatic, we go right to the finish line, we pass go, we collect the $200 and everything is viewed, in politics today as partisanship, what you said in the piece yesterday, what you‘ve said here, defend that for me as not being a partisan statement. 

BERNSTEIN:  I think that the great example of courageous party leadership is what the democrats did under Lyndon Johnson with—when George McGovern and William Fulbright, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Robert Kennedy said of Lyndon Johnson and his disastrous conduct of the Vietnam War, “enough,” and Johnson was forced not to run.  I think that when republicans, like the great conservative Barry Goldwater, and the House and Senate republican leadership said to Richard Nixon, “we won‘t take any more of your lies, we won‘t take anymore of leading our party down this path, it‘s time for you to go.”  I think the republican leaders need to say to their president, “Mr. President, we need a mid course correction, here.  And we need to you acknowledge error.  And we need to you work with us to get us out of this in such a way that we don‘t further endanger the world to terrorists, because you have inflamed terrorism, rather than contained it.”

OLBERMANN:  Carl Bernstein, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, most recently author of the biography of John Paul II, “His Holiness.”

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir. 

BERNSTEIN:  Good to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Polls are perhaps the ultimate expression of partisanship.  Mr. Bush‘s opponents will see two new one, as further indication of plummeting support.  His admirers will point out that despite some soft spots, they reflect continuing strength versus Senator Kerry.  The rest of us, all 143 of us neutrals, will raise a hand and point out that each poll was completed before last night‘s survey. 

“Washington Post” survey, it concludes that the drop in the president‘s approval rating to a new low of 47 percent, his due almost entirely to a drop in support from republicans.

The numbers from a second poll for “CBS” also showing the president at new lows with 41 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.

When asked about how the president is handling Iraq, 40 percent told the “Post” they approved, 57 (sic) percent more said they disapproved. 

And an even starker spread from the “CBS” poll.  A little over one-third approving, six out of 10 disapproving. 

But, how this will effect the elections remains unclear.  In the “Post” view of the 3-way race, Bush edges Kerry by one percent, Nader picking up six percent. 

In the “CBS” poll, by contrast, it‘s Kerry six points ahead of Bush with Nader grabbing five percent. 

All of this, those poll numbers included, last night‘s speech would have seemed to be an ideal time for Mr. Bush‘s challenger, Senator Kerry, to do something dramatic and impactful, presumably about Iraq.  Instead, today‘s Kerry headline was the unveiling of the new campaign plane.  A Boeing 757 intriguingly emblazoned with his name and the word “president” on it.  Not “for” president, just “president.”  The senator did get a few points for joking, quote, “in the event of an emergency, my hair can be used as a flotation device.”

The COUNTDOWN opening tonight with politics and Iraq.  Everything from the looming Iraqi handover to Senator Kerry‘s new wheels. 

Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story:  Essential flash news in the war on terror here on the home front.  The “Associate Press” quoting counterterrorism sources who say they have highly credible intelligence about the planning of a major attack here this summer.  Our own Pete Williams will put the report into perspective for us. 

And later, a senate staffer fired because she claims she‘s a part time call girl, and one of the president‘s appointees is one of her clients.  “Oh, good,” he said unconvincingly, “another Washington sex scandal.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:   COUNTDOWN‘s No. 4 story is up next, a breaking new report tonight:  Terror chatter on the rise, al-Qaeda operatives supposedly on the ground in the U.S. hoping to make a major strike here.  Pete Williams will join us from Washington with the latest from his reporting.  Stand by, we‘re here in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What we know as of this hour is that a news conference has been scheduled for tomorrow.  Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Directory Robert Mueller, as which they are they are to outline their plan to detect and disrupt any potential terror plots this summer.  But, our fourth tonight is that about which we can only guess.  The “Associated Press” broke the headline at 7:03 Eastern daylight time tonight, verbatim: 

“U.S. officials have obtained new intelligence deemed highly credible indicating terrorists are in the United States and preparing to launch a major attack this summer.”

Our correspondent, Pete Williams, joins with us more from now, from Washington.

Pete, good evening.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening to you. 

OLBERMANN:  What do we have on this? 

WILLIAMS:  Well, what we have is that, yes, officials verified that there is some new information.  That much we know.  It is hard, a little bit, to parse this out because officials have told me tonight that the intelligence is that the possibility exists.  And they stress word “possibility,” that terrorists may have recently come to the U.S. and could be planning attacks this summer. 

The intelligence, they say, come from various places, indicating that terrorists either from al-Qaeda, or maybe some other organizations, have recently entered the U.S. and may be planning attacks.  But beyond that, there‘s nothing specific.  Nothing about what they were planning to attack, when, in what city, what kind of target, what the nature of the attack would be, time, place, dates, manner, none of that apparently is in the intelligence. 

Now, officials for months have been saying they‘re worried about the possibility for terrorist attacks in the U.S. this summer.  And there are some specific reasons.  One is the obvious; you‘ve got big high-profile events:  The republican and democratic conventions.  You have a G-8 summit in Georgia next month, you have this weekend, the world—big World War II dedication of the new memorial here in Washington.  And then of course you have the election in November and that received a lot more attention from anti-terror people, here in the U.S., after the Madrid train bombing, which terrorism analysts now say looked like an attempt by the terrorists to effect an election.  And that got people here thinking a lot more about whether terrorists might try to stage some kind of an attack before our elections—our general elections this fall.  But there‘s nothing specific here, Keith, we‘re told. 

And indeed, a good deal of the news conference tomorrow, from Attorney General Ashcroft and the FBI Director Robert Mueller may be, to some extent, to review old ground, to talk about names we‘ve heard of before that are on the FBI‘s Web site that they‘ve asked people before to help them look for.  So, we may be hearing about that, whether we‘ll hear from any new name isn‘t clear yet.  And they‘ll also talk a lot about what new steps are being taken that were already in the works to try to beef-up security at the events this summer and what the public can do to help out. 

OLBERMANN:  Two things from the “Associated Press” story, maybe you can put them in perspective, and I know we‘re basically saying, “it‘s a brown-haired man, we‘re looking for” and that could be anybody in this country, when we talk about the texture or the nuance of the language, here, it‘s so insubstantial and really guessing.  But, the “A.P.”  story quotes there—their sources saying there is clearly a steady drumbeat of information that they‘re going to attack and hit us hard and describes this intelligence as “among the most disturbing pieces of intelligence received by the government since 9/11.”  What would possess someone with knowledge of this kind of information, within the government, to characterize it that way and to pass it on to the “Associated Press,” which will put in it every newspaper in America tomorrow morning? 

WILLIAMS:  Well, you could have said that same thing for the last two or three times that the U.S. has been publicly worried about terrorism attacks.  That was said before in December, before the threat level went up, that this was some of the most urgent chatter they‘d seen, some of the worst concern they‘d had.  So, that statement has been made before.  It seems like recently, Keith, the last two or three times we‘ve been through this, officials have said the same thing.  This is the most concerned they‘ve been since 9/11.  So, that keeps coming up a lot.  Secondly, the steady drumbeat thing is—I mean, we could have been having this conversation a week ago.  There has been a steady drumbeat of potential threats this summer, but there—you know, this kind stuff comes in all the time about potential attacks, but none of it is specific.  This new information we‘re told, is somewhat more credible, but again, it is not specific.  So that‘s always the trick here, is how do you put all that together? 

WILLIAMS:  Obviously, we know what the first question will be at that news conference, tomorrow. 

Pete Williams in the Washington bureau with the latest on the latest in a series of disturbing terror reports.  Great thanks for staying with us. 

WILLIAMS:  Yes, sir.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN now past the fourth story.  Coming up, a much-needed break from the war on Iraq, the war on terror here at home, “Oddball” next with an unusual end between daily dance between good guys in the cars and the bad guys in the cars.

And later, road rage of a different kind:  Frustration over high gas prices.  You might be able to avoid it driving, but you‘re still feel it in the pocketbook no matter what you do.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you and pause the COUNTDOWN now to bring you the segment called the, quote, “best source of weird news on television,” unquote, by some guy who works on the staff.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

And we begin in Arizona with the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week.  A man and a woman in a stolen car fleeing police at up to 100 miles per hour.  Checking the “Oddball” scoreboard, for the year we see its cops:  43, guys who think they can escape the cops, bupkis (ph).  And today‘s contestants never had the chance.

After blowing out the tires on the off ramp and crashing into a truck, this out of control car thief tries to steal another car, while his girl wanders around the intersection aimlessly.  But, did you ever notice something, pal?  Your average carjacker usually has a weapon of some kind.  No one‘s just going to give you the car simply because you have stared daggers at him.  This is underscored by the driver of the white truck who kicked and punched the attacker until the police took the guy down.  He‘ll have plenty of time to nurse his wounded pride where he‘s going—the big house!

Now, in all my years covering sports, I learned one thing about car racing.  It‘s that the Formula One people think the NASCAR people are a bunch of hicks.  And the NASCAR people think the Formula One people are a bunch of snooty champagne-drinking snobs.  We don‘t like to perpetuate the stereotypes here, but at Sunday‘s Monaco Grand Prix, in the streets of Monte Carlo, the rookie driver, Christian Klien crashed his Jaguar into a metal barrier in a hair pin turn.  The car may not have been a total loss, but the 108 carat diamond that was embedded in the nose of the car, that was a total loss.  It had been fitted to the nose cone as a decoration, but now the Jaguar racing team is scouring the streets trying to find the diamond, which is worth more than 250 grand.  Cleverly, they‘re offering a reward if the gem is just turned in:  A new Ford worth one-tenth of that, $25,000, that‘ll work. 

To India, and another new world record claimed for something that had no old world record.  Meet Major Singh, a Sikh cleric who has taken 400 meters of cloth, 100 hair pins, and 51 metal religious symbols and used them to build the world‘s largest turbine.  He‘s applied to the Guinness World Book of Records, but they have yet to recognize his feet, which might explain why he‘s riding that motorcycle.  Because, see, if he can jump 30 flaming school buses with that thing on his head, he might make the cover.

Back to the COUNTDOWN, and tonight‘s third story in a moment.  Until now, we all thought it was a matter of poor judgment or at best a bad hare day—yeah, I‘m talking about you, sir—but tonight, scientists may have discovered the real cause of hideous hair.  And there is nothing you can do about it.

Then later, it might smell as sweet, but the secret ingredient of the brand new genetically engineered rose will probably turn your stomach.  These stories ahead. 

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s the top three newsmakers of this day.  No.  3, Humberto Ulloa, sentenced to five months in prison in Miami.  He used counterfeit Postal Service credit cards to illegally buy gas, $230,000 worth of gas.  That‘s right.  He was trying to fill up his Humvee.  Bum-dum-bump.

No. 2, the late Spike Milligan, eccentric British comic, discoverer of Peter Sellers, inspiration to “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.”  Two years after his death, a court rules the Catholic cemetery where he‘s buried does to have fulfill his last wish.  And thus on his tombstone in Gaelic will be inscribed with the epitaph, “I told you I was ill.”

And No. 1, Cyndi Lauper.  Performing on an outdoor stage in Boston, her mouth wide open for a high note.  And a passing bird relieves itself and scores an exact hit.  She gamely sang on.  But as the lyrics to one of her own hits go, if you fall, I will catch you.  I‘ll be waiting time after time. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Well, men, the results are in.  Science tells us tonight that, if you die young, it is probably your own fault.  But, if you have a bad hair day, that‘s probably mom and dad. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the Professor Frinks of our world are back with another roundup of weird science, everything from a gene that supposedly causes frizzy or unpredictable hair, to a new blue rose colored with enzymes from your liver. 

This men dying because it is their fault stuff, this is from a news conference on men‘s health, which concludes that the reason men die an average of seven years before women do is because they are more likely to die violently, more likely to die accidentally, less likely to seek medical care when they should, really, really should, do so. 

Anecdote about the last point, researchers asked 1,000 new victims of heart attacks what they wanted to know first about their health.  Women‘s answers, high blood pressure, chest pain, how to take care of themselves, men‘s answer, how their heart attack would impair their sex lives. 

No doubt their reactions would be similar to the discovery of a gene in mice called Frizzled 6.  It determines whether the hair on our little cheese-eating friends grows in traditional, predictable patterns or causes the micey equivalent of cowlicks and that no-man‘s land of swirl back here, where your part sort of vanishes and some hair goes left and some right and some up. 

Geneticists say there‘s virtually an identical gene in human.  In a moment, we‘ll consult an expert on clinically bad hair.  First, a refresher course. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair give me hair, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.  Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer, here baby, there, momma, everywhere, daddy, daddy.  Hair.  Flow it, show it, long as I can grow it, my hair.  I let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees.  Give a home to the fleas in my hair.  A home for the fleas, a hive for buzzing bees, a nest for birds.  There ain‘t no words for the beauty and the splendor and the wonder of my hair.  Flow it, show it, long as I can grow it, my hair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And not a single old prom picture in the bunch. 

On the front lines leading the fight to turn bad hair days into good ones is stylist to the stars Louis Licari, who owns his own salons in New York and Beverly Hills.  He is also a contributor to “The Today Show.”  And he joins us now from Beverly Hills.

Mr. Licari, good evening.

LOUIS LICARI, CELEBRITY HAIRSTYLIST:  Hi, Keith.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, how does this jibe with your own vast years of experience?  Does it look to you like people could have a bad hair gene? 

LICARI:  I think certainly people genetically have sometimes hair they don‘t want to have.  In fact, I find that often people have the hair, you know, always want what they don‘t have. 

The bad news is that it takes extra work to make your hair look the way you want to it look.  The good news is, I‘ll always have a job. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me rattle off some famous or infamous hairstyles, some of which we saw in the piece right now.  You tell me what you think, bad hair gene or something else. 

And start with the champion of hair, Don King. 

LICARI:  Oh, Don King.  What can you say about Don King?  It is big.  It‘s wild.  It says, look at me.  It‘s just—he wants you to know.  Hair is often your accessory that says the most about you.  He wants you to know that, I am not a normal guy. 

OLBERMANN:  And I think he got the point across.  The alleged comedian Carrot Top. 

LICARI:  Well, Carrot Top, reds can be either—redheads are—the brighter the red, the more they want people to acknowledge them.  There‘s fewer red heads than any other colors.  So, if you choose to be read, you choose to be noticed.  Obviously, Carrot Top chooses to be noticed. 

OLBERMANN:  Someone else who has chosen to be noticed, Christina Aguilera, maybe a redhead for about 15 minutes two or three years ago. 

LICARI:  Well, Christina Aguilera loves to play with her hair color.  She started off very blonde.  Then she went very black.  And now she is sort of strawberry.  So she‘s trying for a softer look.  And actually she‘s wearing this one the best of all. 

In most cases, the trick is, extremes don‘t work.  And try to work closer to what you do have.  If you start to accept your bad hair, you can turn it into good hair. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, one more, Hillary Clinton, not that it‘s necessarily bad hair, but there‘s just so many different styles over the years.  Is she ruining her own head right there? 

LICARI:  Well, I think that Hillary certainly can go look really beautiful.  I can remember when she did the cover of “Vogue” a few years ago, when she was the wife of the president.  Certainly, now, I think that she has a more serious look.  And her hair, perhaps, isn‘t as important to her as it once was. 

OLBERMANN:  Louis Licari, stylist to the stars, many thanks for your time tonight, sir.

LICARI:  My pleasure to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  More science on the march, from hair today to dad tomorrow, what appears to be a world record for the viability of frozen sperm, with or without the Frizzled 6 gene. 

In Great Britain, they‘re hailing the birth of the ice, ice baby.  He was conceived after his Y chromosome had been frozen for 21 years.  Back in 1979, the baby‘s father banked some sperm before undergoing cancer treatment.  More than two decades later, some defrosting, plus vitro fertilization leading to the birth of a healthy baby boy.  No truth to rumors that the now toddler does go around his parent‘s house trying to turn thermostats down to 57 degrees. 

Fertility treatments are exactly what they do not need in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  There tonight, one family celebrating the birth of its 15th child.  Streamlining becomes important when your household exceeds the baker‘s dozen.  Perhaps that‘s why all the kids, like their father Jim Bob, have names beginning with the letter J. 

Meet the Duggars.  They are Joshua, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger.  Looks like they forget to spell check on Jinger.  Moving on, there‘s Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, Jason, James, Justin.  And crossing the finish line Sunday at No. 15, baby Jackson.

Mother Michelle—how did that happen? -- has 15 kids.  She‘s only 37 years old.  She says she may be ready for more.  If so, we may suggest taking a page out of the Jermaine Jackson playbook.  Name the 16th child, Jer Majesty. 

And our third story, a look at the scientists run amuck in pushing the limits of genetic engineering and family planning, would not be complete without mention of the breakthrough responsible for nature‘s first blue rose.  It would look something like this.  Biochemists researching drugs at Vanderbilt University discovered something startling.  They put some genes from a human liver into bacteria.  The bacteria turned blue.

Then they put the genes from the human liver into roses.  The roses turned blue.  Horticulturists for decades have tried to create a natural blue rose.  Now they all think they have one, all natural, just like Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors.”  All it needs to survive is human livers.  Feed me, feed me.  Thanks a lot, Mr. Science.

That flushes out No. 3 of the COUNTDOWN.  Up next, our second story, the pain at the pump.  You are paying for high gas prices in ways you may not even realize.  And later, the W. vs. W, a major hotel chain taking on the George Bush reelection campaign. 

All that ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s No. 2 story is up next.  High gas prices, for most people, it‘s a major inconvenience.  For others, it‘s triggering a potential life-and-death struggle.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t need to watch this newscast to know about gas prices.  Heck, you don‘t have to have electricity in your house to know about gas prices, up again over the weekend, the national average now $2.06. 

But in our No. 2 story tonight, it not like the pain stops when you put the nozzle back in the pump. 

As our correspondent Anne Thompson reports, the ripple effect means that‘s where the pain begins. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Meals on Wheels is a lifeline to seniors in Spokane, Washington.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Enjoy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you. 

THOMPSON:  Its lifeline, volunteer drivers.  But soaring gas prices are forcing some like Bob and Doris Suela (ph) to cut back on miles and others to drop out all together. 

PAM ALMEIDA, MEALS ON WHEELS:  If volunteers can‘t afford to deliver the meals, then we can‘t afford to get the meals out to the people who need them.  My fear is that seniors will go hungry. 

THOMPSON:  A growing problem for Meals On Wheels programs nationwide, just one of the ripple effects of $2 gas and nearly $42 oil. 

DANIEL YERGIN, NBC GLOBAL ENERGY ANALYST:  The increases in oil prices are like a $50 billion tax increase on the American people and, clearly, a growing drag on our economy. 

THOMPSON:  It‘s felt in every part of Tim Hanon‘s (ph) florist business outside Denver.  He is paying more for freight charges, so he has raised the price of roses nearly $1 a stem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have a delivery for you.

THOMPSON:  And his delivery fee has jumped as much as 50 percent, hurting customers and Hanon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve got some people that are choosing to take some of the increased delivery charge out of the arrangement rather than spending the extra. 

THOMPSON (on camera):  But not everybody is holding back.  Yellow Roadway, the nation‘s largest trucking company, reports, despite a 7 percent fuel surcharge, it is seeing no drop-off in demand for its services to haul everything from clothes to machine cogs. 

(voice-over):  That business able to absorb these price shocks in a growing economy, a buffer against the ripple effect that‘s putting pressure on others. 

Anne Thompson, NBC News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From gas to gas, as we segue neatly into “Keeping Tabs.”

Courtney Love back in court this afternoon, and maybe for the last time.  Well, let‘s not get carried away.  Remember who we‘re talking about here.  But as far as the current drug and disorderly conduct charges against her in L.A., a plea arrangement has ended the case.  She‘s pleaded guilty.  She will be sentenced July 16, but will enter an outpatient drug rehab program almost immediately.  She does, however, still face a charge of hitting a fan with a microphone stand in New York. 

A little late on the draw, evidently.  Salt Lake City attorney Eric Stephenson, he is suing over the Super Bowl halftime show.  Anybody remember that?  Stephenson hit the owners of CBS, Viacom with a $5,000 suit in small-claims court, insisting the show was falsely advertised.  He said he was never led to believe that he would see Janet Jackson‘s bare breast, only—quote—“marching bands, a patriotic celebrations and balloons.” 

Look, the joke here is so obvious, I don‘t even have to say it, do I? 

That guy thinks he has got a lawsuit.  How about the people who saw the singer Jewel in her second show in Hampton, New Hampshire, Saturday night.  Witnesses say she came on stage and immediately began insulting the fatter member of the audience, then the ones with no teeth.  Then she asked the crowd to shout out requests.  And when some of them did, she yelled, shut the hell up. 

When she finally started singing, she stopped abruptly and spent 10 minutes talking about the prescription drugs Zoloft and Paxil.  Finally, one witness told the newspaper “The Hampton Union,” Jewel told the fans to stop looking at her teeth and instead to look at her breasts.  Bad show?  It sounds like a pay-per-view event to me. 

And lastly, it looks like a lawsuit cooking between W and W.  The hotel chain W is playing nice, saying it is flattered, but it is none too happy that George Bush‘s reelection campaign is now selling baseball caps and accessories featuring its own version of the W. logo.  “The New York Daily News” reports that the hoteliers are ready to send a lawyer letter to the campaign, ah, and one of the “Sesame Street” crowd, too. 

Tonight‘s top story is up next.  And that video you saw five seconds ago should be your hint.  The real question is, will I flee from the studio during the break and pummel the staff? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  So to our No. 1 story tonight and the eerie echoes provided by it, Bill Clinton, politics, sex scandals and the fact that, despite any real urge, I cannot run screaming from this room for any of this. 

We begin with Cornell University‘s 2004 senior convocation.  Scheduled date, May 29, scheduled speaker, Bill Clinton.  Funny thing about the senior convocation.  It takes place the day before the commencement ceremonies.  But that‘s not it.  I too was an invited speaker at that event.  Mr. Clinton is scheduled to address seniors and their families at 9:00 on Saturday, 9:00 on Saturday of graduation weekend.

Well, many of the seniors will still be awake, but I think my attendance record of about 6,000 may be safe.  That occurred when I gave the speech in 1998.  You may remember 1998.  I remember 1998.  Mr. Clinton remembers 1998.  That was when that Lewinsky thing happened.  Isn‘t this where I came in? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998)

OLBERMANN:  The story exploded this morning that former White House employee Linda Tripp had worn a hidden microphone that recorded her conversations with former intern Monica Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky is alleged to have said she had an affair with the president and that he told her if asked to lie about it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But wait, now a new and unimproved Washington sex scandal, thanks to our new friend, the World Wide Web.  Her name is Jessica Cutler.  She sorted mail in the office of the Ohio Senator Mike DeWine to the tune of $25,000 a year, interesting job, sort of mail.  In between stuffing envelopes, Ms. Cutler found time to stuff a blog, an Internet diary, filled with her sexual exploits.

Quote: “Most of my living expenses are thankfully subsidized by a few generous older gentlemen.”  Beginning to sound a little like Tennessee Williams here.  “I‘m sure I am not the only one who makes money on the side this way.  I am convinced that the Congressional offices are full of dealers and hos”—her word.

Ms. Cutler was dismissed from her job Friday, lost the blog into one of the black holes of cyberspace as a result.  But before the plug was pulled, she managed to list the six men she was sharing her gifts with, one she claims the head of an agency appointed by the president.

Richard Leiby writes the “Reliable Source” column for “The Washington Post” and has spoken with young Ms. Cutler a couple of times.

Rich, nice to talk to you.  Good evening.

RICHARD LEIBY, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Thanks for having me, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Sex scandals in Washington, well, that‘s hardly new.  Using my personal favorite as the measuring stick, Clinton-Lewinsky, by that scale, how much of a story or nonstory is this really? 

LEIBY:  Well, by the Lewinsky standard, which can‘t really be topped, since it led to the impeachment, I think we‘re talking about a scale of two on a 10.  It‘s not even a Wayne Hayes scandal of 28 years ago.  That was the congressman from Ohio 20 who had a lady on the side who worked for the -- quote—“keep out of sight committee.” 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  And she wound up trying to escape via the tidal basin, as I recall. 

LEIBY:  That was another one. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  How do we know that this stuff on here is not completely made up, that this blog is not the fantasy or the time wasting of your taxpayer dollars? 

LEIBY:  We don‘t know anything except that it‘s great reading.  I have interviewed the lady face to face for over an hour.  She will not give up any names.  If she is a liar, she is a good one.  I mean, and it‘s good erotic fiction. 

On the other hand, this sort of behavior by interns and young women in Washington is an unknown.  See the Starr report.  So we have—I have a confidence that it‘s real.  She told me she didn‘t think there was any reason anybody should be interested since it happens all the time in Washington.  And that is sort of one threshold.  Does it happen all the time?  Yes.  Do we read about it all the time on the Internet?  No.  That‘s why it‘s news. 

OLBERMANN:  Now, when did we expect the book deal?  And given that this is just the slightest twist on the very first plotline from the very first episode of “The West Wing” from five years ago, do we think a book would sell? 

LEIBY:  Well, I know that Manhattan is interested in a book because I fielded a call today from a top literary agency that wanted her phone number.  They cast it as, we‘d like to do it as sex on the Hill, sort of like the devil wears Prada, the intern‘s insider view.  It could be fact or fiction.  I don‘t think they really care at this point.

They are interested in these bloggers.  They are interested in young people.  And then tonight, just as I was leaving to come over here, I fielded a call from “Playboy.”  So it seems to me that it is going out in the logical direction of any scandal. 

OLBERMANN:  But we‘re convinced that there is no connection, other than the wasting—potentially wasting of government resources by wasting time?  This is not connected to any Senator DeWine‘s office, other than the fact that she worked there?  It doesn‘t have anything to with him?  But are there repercussions here for anybody besides her? 

LEIBY:  Well, there‘s no evidence of anything untoward in his office. 

The repercussions for this agency chief of staff, as he is described, whom she will not name, who apparently had a tryst by her account with him at the lunch hour on May the 18th and paid her $400.  Now, that‘s what it is.  That‘s either a generous gift, as she described it, or it‘s prostitution.  No one is calling for an investigation.

And so far no one has come forward to say, hi, I‘m one of the people in Jessica‘s blog.  I would like to talk to you, Rich. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, as to the investigation, just remember, there is always another day. 

Richard Leiby, the writer of the “Reliable Source” column from “The Washington Post,” chronicler of the Cutler phenomenon, thanks for joining us tonight. 

LEIBY:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Before we leave you, a reminder of the developing story in the war on terror, what the Associated Press has called among the most disturbing intelligence received by the government since 9/11, more reports of a terrorist plan to attack in the U.S. this summer, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, and the FBI director, Robert Mueller, to hold a news conference tomorrow, when we will get presumably some details on the efforts to interrupt this.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 

END   

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